Positive Consequences of False Memories


Correspondence to: Professor Mark L. Howe, Department of Psychology, City University London, EC1V 0HB, U.K. E-mail: Mark.Howe.1@city.ac.uk


Previous research is replete with examples of the negative consequences of false memories. In the current research, we provide a different perspective on false memories and their development and demonstrate that false memories can have positive consequences. Specifically, we examined the role false memories play in subsequent problem-solving tasks. Children and adults studied and recalled neutral or survival-relevant lists of associated words. They then solved age-normed compound remote associates, some of whose solutions had been primed by false memories created when studying the previous lists. The results showed that regardless of age: (a) survival-related words were not only better recollected but were also more susceptible than neutral words to false memory illusions; and (b) survival-related false memories were better than neutral false memories as primes for problem-solving. These findings are discussed in the context of recent speculation concerning the positive consequences of false memories, and the adaptive nature of reconstructive memory. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.